It’s Your Body: Know Your Rights!

Reproductive Rights Activists Hold Stand Up For Women's Health Rally In DC

Because of discrimination, violence against women, less access to education, and an intersection of additional human right abuses, women and girls are disproportionately affected when sexual and reproductive rights are denied (Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

By Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

Today, nearly 3,000 people will be infected with HIV.  Yet, only 34% of young people in developing countries can answer five basic questions about HIV and how to prevent it.

Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of pregnancy or childbirth—more than 350,000 women every year.  The vast majority of these deaths are preventable—child marriage, unsafe and unprotected sex, and inadequate care during pregnancy all contribute to this alarming number.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth, gender-based violence and AIDS are among the leading causes of mortality for young people. Complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.

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Not a Billion More

One Billion Rising

I was in Delhi on December 17 when tens of thousands marched in solidarity to support a young victim of rape.

On the evening of December 16, this young woman and her friend boarded a bus to return home after watching a movie. Her friend was attacked, while she was assaulted and raped by five men on the bus. Both were then left to die on the side of a busy street. Her injuries were so severe, that she succumbed to them a few weeks later.

Angered by her plight, thousands took to the streets to demand justice and accountability from a system that they think routinely ignores issues around women’s safety. Subsequently, the Indian government showed uncharacteristic speed in apprehending and trying the suspects. And now substantial efforts are under way to overhaul the country’s legal, social, and cultural response to violence against women.

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Congress’ New Year’s Resolution Should Be to Pass an Inclusive VAWA

VAWA rally in washington dcAs Congress gets ready to take its holiday break, time is running out to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act that protects ALL communities.

Talks between Congressional leadership in the House and the Senate continued over the weekend with no final agreement announced yet.  Republican leadership is still refusing to include crucial provisions to protect Native women from violence.  But with less than two weeks until the end of the year, Congress MUST act quickly to pass a just and fair VAWA that is inclusive of ALL communities, including Native American and Alaska Native women. Last week, Sarah Deer, an Assistant Professor at William Mitchell College of Law and a member of Amnesty International USA’s Native American and Alaska Native Maze Advisory Council, provided an update on what is at stake if  the Tribal provisions are left out of VAWA. Sarah appeared on MSNBC over the weekend to discuss the realities of violence against Native women and why it is so critical for the Tribal provisions to be part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Watch the short clip here and then take action by calling Majority Leader Cantor at 202.225.2815 and telling him to pass a VAWA that protects everyone, including Native women.

It’s Never Too Late for Justice: Standing with the Women of Indonesia

Indonesian laws need to be reformed to help overcome discriminatory practices © Amnesty International

For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.

For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.

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We Get It

amnesty bus shelter afghan women

Amnesty Ad in Chicago

As the NATO summit gets underway tomorrow in Chicago, Amnesty International USA will host a “Shadow Summit”with leading Afghan women’s rights activists to remind NATO of the conversation it should be having on Afghan women’s human rights.

The shadow summit poster, which features the words “Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan” and “NATO: Keep the Progress Going!” has generated some controversy over the last few days.  You can guess which sentence triggered the controversy.

Some are asking, is Amnesty now a cheerleader for NATO?  Does Amnesty support the war?  What was Amnesty thinking?!

The shadow summit — and the poster — is directed at NATO, not to praise it, but to remind the leaders who will be discussing Afghanistan’s future this weekend about what is really at stake if women’s rights to security, political participation and justice are traded away or compromised.

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Afghan Women to NATO: Don’t Bargain Our Rights Away

afghan women at school

Afghan teacher Meher Afroza with her students at an Islamic school in Kabul. Under the Taliban, few girls attended school. Today 3 million girls go to school, and 20 percent of university of graduates are women. (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

World leaders, dignitaries and reporters will convene in Chicago next week for the 2012 NATO summit, and among the urgent questions they will consider is that of Afghanistan’s future after the 2014 withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops.

Yet Afghanistan’s female leaders were denied a place at the table for these critical discussions—despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s promise that the United States would not forsake the rights of Afghan women.

Indeed, recent developments signal that the significant but tenuous gains Afghan women have made over the past decade are mere bargaining chips in negotiations between U.S., Afghan and Taliban leaders seeking to expedite the transition to Afghan rule. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has proposed a program of “reintegration and reconciliation” with the Taliban that holds grim implications for women and girls, and in March he briefly endorsed an edict issued by a council of clerics that would allow husbands to beat their wives in certain situations and encourage gender segregation in workplaces and schools.

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Faxes Jammed! Guatemalan Government Responds to Our Actions for Norma Cruz

Norma Cruz

Norma Cruz

Earlier this week, we started an exciting new faxjam action – calling on our members and Facebook and Twitter supporters around the world to send a fax to the Attorney General of Guatemala on behalf of human rights defender Norma Cruz.

Last night we spoke to Norma, the leader of the women’s rights organization Fundación Sobrevivientes, who has received repeated death threats because of her work supporting victims of violence against women and calling for those responsible to be prosecuted.

And the news is good – the authorities are really taking notice.

Norma told us that on Tuesday (the day after we started jamming faxes), the Presidential Commission on Human Rights phoned her to check on her security situation. They said that they were checking because they had heard about the Amnesty International campaign – the campaign that you have all been a part of.

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Speak Out in Solidarity with Egyptian Women!

From the moment protests began in Egypt on January 25, women have been on the frontlines, demanding respect for the human rights of all Egyptians.

On Tuesday, in honor of International Women’s Day, women assembled in Tahrir Square to claim their human rights, the Washington Post reported. However, the demonstration was marred by an angry mob of men who beat and sexually assaulted the female marchers, insisting that a woman could never be president and objecting to women’s demands to have a role in drafting a new constitution.

Image: © Ramy Raoof

The Washington Post reported, “Everyone was chased. Some were beaten. They were touching us everywhere,’ said Dina Abou Elsoud, organizer of the ambitiously named Million Woman March.”

In contrast to the status of women in Ancient Egypt, a period in Egyptian history which gave rise to powerful female leaders such as Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Cleopatra, women in Egypt today are underrepresented and sexually harassed. The gender-based violence seen in Tahrir square on Tuesday points to the long and difficult struggle that still lies ahead for women in Egypt to fully enjoy their rights.

According to a survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed in Egypt. In addition, “20,000 women or girls [are] raped every year,” as cited in an article by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

New bill to end violence against women:"An act of compassion.."

I was honored to attend the event to mark the re-introduction of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) on Thursday February 4th.  There was quite a turn out – politicians, activists and advocates all committed to ending the global scourge of violence against women and all gathered to celebrate the long awaited introduction of this landmark legislation. 

The bill  is a comprehensive response to this global human rights violation that places women’s rights at the center of United States foreign policy and supports programs which have been shown to reduce rates of violence – including education, health, legal reform, economic opportunity and public awareness raising programs.  A bipartisan team of sponsors from the House and the Senate were represented at the event and they were joined by two important  women who had first hand experience of confronting violence against women.  Humaira Shahid, an editor and legislator in Pakistan, was behind groundbreaking legislative reform to defend the rights of women in Pakistan, including a resolution to abolish acid attacks, amendment of criminal laws to increase protection of women from domestic violence and the Women’s Protection Act.  As Humaira put it during her speech ”..women are the untapped reservoir we should invest in to bring real change…and I-VAWA is the way to do it” 

The other guest of honor was our very own Amnesty activist Irene Safi Turner.  Irene has worked on gender issues in Central Africa for almost a decade.  She made a moving speech on the value of I-VAWA to women like those affected by the conflcit and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The legislation will bring a sense of hope and purpose for thousands of Congolese women victims of violence who are traumatized and stigmatized by their community” she said “The International Violence Against Women Act is an act of compassion and solidarity”.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

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